The KLF: 23 Seconds to Eternity [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - United Kingdom - British Film Institute
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (28th December 2023).
The Film

"The KLF: 23 Seconds to Eternity"

Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty joined forces together to create the music entity The KLF (also known as The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, The JAMs, Timelords, etc.) in 1987. Everything they did was against the norm for the music world at the time. They rarely showed their faces or granted conventional interviews. Their music was a mish mash of genres that changed from song to song from album to album. Their antics include defacing billboards, destroying copies of their album, burning £1 million in cash, firing machine gun blanks into an awards show audience, and shelving an entire album among others. It would sound like the KLF were more about antics than musical artistry, but they proved to be popular with audiences as they reached the top of the charts in several countries. In addition to that they were the biggest selling singles act in the world in 1991. But on May 14th, 1992, the duo suddenly announced the disbanding of The KLF as well as the deletion of their entire music catalogue.

"We have been following a wild and wounded, glum and glorious, shit but shining path these past five years. The last two of which has led us up onto the commercial high ground – we are at a point where the path is about to take a sharp turn from these sunny uplands down into a netherworld of we know not what. For the foreseeable future there will be no further record releases from The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, The Timelords, The KLF and any other past, present and future name attached to our activities. As of now all our past releases are deleted .... If we meet further along be prepared ... our disguise may be complete."

It was a surprising moment in the music world, as they were riding high on the success of their 1991 album “The White Room” and their singles and were about to release the follow-up counterpart album “The Black Room”. But the follow-up was shelved and never released. Shock didn’t just come from the fans but their collaborators as well. They worked with vocalists such as reggae singer Black Steel, rappers Ricardo Da Force and Isaac Bello, rock singer Glenn Hughes (of Deep Purple/Black Sabbath), and country legend Tammy Wynette on some of their key anthems, and there was also their filmmaking partner Bill Butt, who filmed all of their music videos and visual promos from the group’s inception.

Butt and Drummond were classmates, and in their adult years were both part of the music business. Drummond was a musician and later an A&R man for Warner Music while Butt was directed music videos. Butt would direct the music video for Drummond’s single “The Manager” in 1987, and from thereon would create all the promos for Drummond’s newest musical entity as half of The KLF. Butt and The KLF produced a number of clips that were as varied as the music itself. Although not every production came to completion and some of their planned works were abandoned with the disbanding of The KLF. As they deleted their catalogue, this also included their music videos, which were long unseen by the mainstream public. In a surprise move, The KLF made their music and videos available again through streaming services and on YouTube officially. And now in the 23rd year of the new millennium, The KLF along with director Bill Butt have compiled all of their filmed works into a single compilation film entitled “23 Seconds to Eternity”.

The “23” is a reference to the book “Illuminatus!” which features the fictional conspiratorial group The Justified Ancients of Mummu and was an inspiration for Drummond and Cauty. The number 23 can be found almost everywhere. From song lyrics to their catalogue numbers, as well as times and dates. Their reformed union as the duo 2K in 1997 lasted only 23 minutes. 23 years after their infamous burning of £1 million in 1994, they returned as The KLF on August 23rd, 2017, at exactly 23 minutes after midnight. It was then that they released a book entitled “2023”, and 2023 was the year that this compilation “23 Seconds to Eternity” was released.

"23 Seconds to Eternity" is a compilation film, which has all the material that Bill Butt filmed for the duo over a four year period, bridged with text notes by the director in chronological order. Fans who are looking for a definitive biography of the band will come away with nothing more. Answers to mysteries such as what KLF actually stands for or the significance of the number 23 are not even mentioned. But for fans of the music, it is a trip back to the rave scene and MTV broadcasts of the late 80s and early 90s with a few surprises along the way. The films and promos included are as follows.

"Doctorin' the Tardis" (1988)

Butt's first work in a standard music video format for Drummond and Cauty was under the name The Timelords. The track "Doctorin' the Tardis" was a early example of mashup music which sampled the "Doctor Who" theme music, Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll" plus "Block Buster!" by The Sweet with additional sounds and distorted vocals mashed together. The song was not directly credited to Drummond and Cauty but rather to "Ford Timelord", which was the name given to Cauty's 1968 Ford Galaxie which is featured in the clip as it chases down a crude handmade Dalek. Filmed in Wiltshire, England with a budget of £8000, the song was an unexpected hit, reaching the top spot of the UK and New Zealand pop chars and reaching the top 10 in Australia, Finland, Ireland and Norway. It was not a hit with the critics at the time as there was criticism of it being recycled content and being a novelty hit than a creative one. This wouldn't be the only time that Drummond and Cauty would recycle and sample for their music.

"The White Room" (1989)

Drummond and Cauty drive their Ford Timelord across the barren desert to try to find the mysterious White Room in this ambitious lengthy work, which was never completed and remained unreleased in an official form until now, though there were bootlegs that were circulated. Butt and The KLF filmed in the UK and Spain as a road movie filled with grand and lengthy driving scenes accompanied by songs by The KLF's music such as "Dream Time in Lake Jackson", "Build a Fire", "Baltimore to Fair Play", "3 A.M. Somewhere out of Beaumont", and more. But with rising costs of the film and the duo not having additional music to release, the film was essentially abandoned. The most complete version of the film is this 45 minute version, which was made as a work in progress.

"Kyle Said to Jason" (1989)

The KLF looked to creating a commercial hit and their single "Kyle Said to Jason" was a surefire one as an electropop anthem with heavy beats, electronic rhythms, and soulful vocals. The music video was mostly taken from footage shot during "The White Room" with additional footage of vocals and other shots to cut the costs of creating completely new visuals. Unfortunately the single failed to make an impact or chart. The song's failure was a blow to the completion of the road film, though at the same time a few of their trance singles such as "What Time Is Love?" and "Last Train to Trancentral" were proving to be popular in the club scene, and it pushed the duo into the rave scene further for their next releases.

The Stadium House Trilogy: "3AM Eternal" / "Last Train to Trancentral" / "What Time Is Love?" (1990)

Three promos were filmed on a soundstage (dubbed "live at Woodstock, Europa") with a number of musicians, dancers, singers, and rappers filled with strobing lights, colorful wardrobes, and booming sound from massive speakers, with all three being major hits on MTV at the time and on the dance charts worldwide. From the model trains and cars featured in "Last Train to Trancentral" to the electric handsaws, these are more controlled works compared to the previous ones as they worked in a controlled studio environment. "What Time Is Love?" went to #5 on the UK charts, "3AM Eternal reached #1 on the UK charts and "Last Train to Trancentral" peaked at #2 on the UK charts. In addition, "3AM Eternal" was their first major hit in the United States, where it reached #5 on the Billboard 100. The videos were also released on VHS along with the "This Is Not What the KLF is About" making-of featurette which is also available as a bonus feature on this Blu-ray release.

"The Rites of Mu" (1990)

A number of worldwide journalists come and visit the island of Jura in Scotland, where they are stripped of their cameras, recording devices and other materials. They are given traditional robes and witness the burning of a wicker man in an ancient ritual by the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu. The 30 minute short is presented with droning music by The KLF and narration from actor Martin Sheen in a cross between "Apocalypse Now" and "The Wicker Man". It's not at all conventional in comparison to the Stadium Trilogy and seems more like an experiment for the duo and how they could bring journalists and locals to participate in the art film to give a more mythological context to their supposed backstory.

"It's Grim Up North" (1991)

For their next clip, the duo credit the song to The JAMs (although "KLF" is seen on the helmet of the guard throughout) with its trance rhythms and distorted poetic vocals that reference a number of northern cities in the UK. Shot in stark black and white on a motorway that was under construction and on the M1, the promo is quite a conventional and simple one which is what Drummond, Cauty and Butt were going for. It was another hit for the duo, reaching the UK top 10 and charting in several countries worldwide.

"America: What Time Is Love?" (1991)

In order to make another hit for the American charts, The KLF went in another unconventional route by reworking one of their songs from the ground up. The trance rhythms and soulful vocals of "What Time Is Love?" was remade with pounding bass, a guitar riff interpolated from Motorhead's "Ace of Spades", plus rap and rock vocals by Isaac Bello and Glenn Hughes respectively for a rocking and powerful track to separate itself from the original version. The promo video features an opening narration that tells the story of the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu being the first to discover the continent of America one thousand years ago to add to the KLF mythology further, and has The KLF and the performers on top of a Viking ship sailing in windy and rainy waters in black and white. The promo was shot at the Pinewood 007 stage which was flooded for the ship, which was used in the film "Erik the Viking" which was later set on fire for the ending. The single did not become the rock anthem they were hoping for, hitting #57 on the US charts. As the end of 1991 saw a major shift with Nirvana's "Nevermind" changing the rock music scene entirely, the dance-rock-rap hybrid didn't fit in with trend. But they were not done yet with making a dent in America, and it came with yet another unlikely collaboration.

"Justified and Ancient" (1991)

The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu are joined by county legend Tammy Wynette for a hybrid of rock, trance, rap, and country in the anthemic genre bending song. The promo was again shot at Pinewood on a stage this time in full color with shiny and bright wardrobes by the performers, especially with Wynette's sparkling blue dress. The duo visited Wynette in Tennessee to convince her to record for them and to appear in their promo (which are part of the lyrics to the song itself). One of the duo's biggest hits, it unfortunately wasn't big enough, as it stalled at #2 on the UK charts and #11 on the US charts, though it did hit #1 in 18 different countries. This was also the highest charting song for the 49-year-old Wynette on the US pop charts. This was the last single to be released by The KLF (under that name) as they called it quits a few months later in 1992.

"KRASH" (2023)

In 1991, Cauty's car Lord Timelord was raced at a charity banger racing event at Wimbledon Stadium, with Cauty behind the wheel. The car's destruction was captured on 16mm film in black and white by Butt and was one of a few signals to the end of The KLF with one of their signatures. The film was never released until now, and has been included as a coda to the compilation film appropriately. It was also edited by Butt's son Dan Butt. The music that accompanies the short is a track from The KLF's legendary unreleased "The Black Album" which is dark and guitar heavy for another major stylistic change that could have happened but didn't.

Although The KLF disbanded, Drummond and Cauty did return in 1993 with the song "K Cera Cera" as The K Foundation and in 1997 with the song "Fuck the Millennium" as 2K. Again playing with the number 23, 2K only had one performance in their lifespan, which lasted 23 minutes. During their early years, Drummond and Cauty redefined the music business with their antics and their music, crossing boundaries and creating controversy with varying results that can still be felt today. They still have a cult audience of fans and their influence is felt strong throughout many artists. It's wonderful that these promos are now available again for the masses including the long unavailable "The White Room" and "KRASH" together.

I first heard The KLF when I moved to Europe in late 1991. I had no serious interest in music as a kid and only knew the basic radio hits, but as I entered junior high and was exposed to new music from MTV Europe at the time, it changed my ears forever. The above mentioned "Nevermind" by Nirvana was especially key, but so was "Screamadelica" by Primal Scream, "The Low End Theory" by A Tribe Called Quest, "Blue Lines" by Massive Attack, and more. The KLF's music video for "Justified and Ancient" was on heavy rotation on MTV and they were one of many artists that I found myself listening to as a preteen discovering his musical interests. Their breakup a few months later was on the news, but it wasn't particularly a major event that affected me, as I didn't know they impact they had had in the past and what it meant for the future. I didn't buy a copy of "The White Room" on CD until many years later when I was eager to hear some of their songs again. It was a little disappointing that two of the songs I associated with them were not on the album - "America: What Time Is Love?" and "Justified and Ancient". Technically they were on the album in differing form, but the single/music video versions were not included. I did manage to pick up the 12" single for "America: What Time Is Love?" and their lone 12" as 2K, but finding their work in official formats was difficult in the late 90s and 2000s. In addition, peers and friends of mine had either forgotten about them or had never heard of them. They were a major inspiration for my young ears even if it was for a very short period of time. Some of their music has dated but there are many tracks that are still fresh with a timeless sound. Will it be another 23 years until The KLF will continue with new music? Who knows? They probably don't either. And now with this release, people can journey back into Mu Mu Land or experience it all for the first time.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray + region 0 NTSC DVD set


The BFI present the film(s) in multiple aspect ratios in 1080p AVC MPEG-4 on Blu-ray and in anamorphic widescreen in the NTSC format on the DVD. The following text was provided about the transfer:

"23 Seconds to Eternity" has been supplied to the BFI by K2 Plant Hire Ltd. The film has been remastered from various original SD video and 35mm sources, presented in their original aspect ratios of 1.33:1, 1.66:1 and 1.85:1 with remastered 2.0 stereo sound. Every effort has been made to give the footage the best presentation possible.

The following are the aspect ratios:
- "Doctorin' the Tardis", "It's Grim Up North", "America: What Time Is Love?", "Justified and Ancient" are in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio.
- "The White Room" is in the 1.66;1 aspect ratio.
- The Stadium House Trilogy, "The Rites of Mu" are in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio.
- "KRASH" is in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio.

The film opens with a statement saying that the best available materials were used though some of the original materials were lost over time. This is unfortunate as many of the clips seen are taken from standard definition materials, even when the original materials were shot on 16mm or 35mm film. "Doctorin' the Tardis", "The White Room", the Stadium House Trilogy, "It's Grim Up North", "America: What Time Is Love?" and "Justified and Ancient" are the portions mastered from standard definition video sources. For fans expecting a major upgrade in terms of being able to experience the classic music videos in pristine form, this will come as a disappointment. Detail is slightly blurry, damage marks from the original film to tape transfer are visible, tape errors can be spotted, and colors are not well defined making the image a bit on the bland side. It's unfortunate that in many cases of music videos as well as television series that were shot on film and edited/mastered on video, the original film materials may have been discarded along the way. There are some exceptions to the rule, but here is another one of many examples of the lament of lost materials and the importance of preservation.

For the opening shots of The KLF in 1987, "The Rites of Mu" and "KRASH" are transferred from original film materials so they are much better defined, though they do have their defects. The vintage footage shot on 16mm film has flickering and some visible dust. "The Rites of Mu" has a golden hue throughout and is quite sharp for the most part. The passport scenes and a few other shots seem to be from 8mm so there is a lack of clarity in those shots, but overall this is the most pleasing part of the compilation film. "KRASH" is gritty with its 16mm film transfer, which is a bit wobbly and grainy though it is the artistic intention. While the framing of 1.78:1 fills the screen, it seems like the image has been stretched from its original ratio.

The film's runtime is both 121:09 on the Blu-ray and on the DVD.

Note the screenshots are taken from the standard definition version


Music/English LPCM 2.0 stereo (Blu-ray)
Music/English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo (DVD)
The original stereo music tracks are presented in uncompressed stereo on the Blu-ray and in lossy Dolby Digital on the DVD. The music being presented in a remastered form is truly key for a music release such as this, but there is a major problem due to the framerate the film is presented in. Most of these films were shot in 25fps and synchronized to their music, so when these are transferred at 24fps, it results in a 4% slowdown of the music. "Last Train to Trancentral" is a 120BPM song, but here it is presented at 116BPM. People that are used to these songs from the original albums will easily hear a difference in speed and the slowdown is noticeable. This is unfortunately for the case on both the Blu-ray and the DVD. There was hope that the DVD would be presented in the PAL format to preserve the 25fps speed, but it is in the NTSC format in an unusual fashion, so the speed is the same as on the Blu-ray.

On the positive side, the remastered tracks sound excellent, with great separation of stereo for a full effect. Vocals are well balanced and there is great depth without any issues of dropout, hiss or other problems. The audio sounds cleaner and richer than they did on CD, but the speed is a major minus point that needs to be said.

There are optional English HoH subtitles which caption all the song lyrics and narration.


DISC ONE (Blu-ray)

"A Chance to Play with the Big Toys" interview with director Bill Butt (41:20)
This new and exclusive interview has Butt being interviewed by The KLF's publicist Mick Houghton, on August 23rd, 2023. The director discusses about meeting Drummond as a teen, his involvement as a director, filming them during his own honeymoon, the various locations, the shooting and abandonment of "The White Room", the odd shooting of "The Rites of Mu", the soundstages used for the later shorts, his memories of the films, the unearthing of the unreleased "KRASH" short and much more. A lot of great behind the scenes information is touched upon and is a worthwhile listen.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English LPCM 2.0 without subtitles

"KLF: Unfinished" featurette (with optional commentary by Robert Milton Wallace) (28:38)
This featurette which was shot by Robert Milton Wallace is a behind the scenes look at the making of "Justified and Ancient" and "America: What Time Is Love?" which were both shot at Pinewood studios. There are some great candid shots and B-roll footage to be found, including Wynette's reaction to her costume, the cold, damp and dirty set with the rain and wind machines for "What Time Is Love", and much more. Wallace also gives a newly recorded commentary for the footage, in which he discusses about some of the people seen and what the shoots were like in hindsight.
in 480i AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English LPCM 2.0 / English (commentary) Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"This Is Not What the KLF is About" featurette (14:35)
Originally released on the VHS release of the Stadium House Trilogy as a bonus, this is a behind the scenes look at the three music videos, including the building of the miniature set, the stage construction, B-roll of the shoot, and more. There is no interview footage or dialogue, as the sound is made from ambient KLF tracks which are not synchronized to the images.
in 480i AVC-MPEG-4, in 1.60:1, in Music LPCM 2.0 without subtitles

Image Gallery (2:54)
Presented here is a slideshow gallery of stills from the productions from the personal collections of Butt and Houghton and Paul Graham.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4

- "23 Seconds to Eternity" (1:55)
- "The White Room" (1:04)
- "The Rites of Mu" (1:07)
- "KRASH" (1:00)

Presented here are four trailers, with the first being a full trailer featuring multiple clips from all the music videos while the other three are focused on the individual promos.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in various ratios, Music LPCM 2.0 without subtitles


"A Chance to Play with the Big Toys" interview with director Bill Butt (41:17)
"KLF: Unfinished" featurette (with optional commentary by Robert Milton Wallace) (28:37)
"This Is Not What the KLF is About" featurette (14:34)
Image Gallery (2:54)
- "23 Seconds to Eternity" (1:55)
- "The White Room" (1:04)
- "The Rites of Mu" (1:07)
- "KRASH" (1:00)

The film and all the extras are repeated in standard definition NTSC on the DVD.

A 32 page booklet is included with the first pressing. First is a statement from Bill Butt from 2023 entitled "From the DireKtor". Next is "What Time Is Kaos? by Mick Houghton which looks at the partnership between Butt and The KLF with their filmed output, with information on each. "Kinema Liberation Force: 3AM Eternal" by the BFI's William Fowler is next, which has some additional information about the KLF films. "Bill Butt: A Filmography" is information on the director's works for film and television. There is also a 1990 written introduction to "The White Room" by The KLF and Bill Butt. Finally, there are film credits, special features information, transfer information, acknowledgements and stills.

Other notable clips:

The KLF with Extreme Noise Terror at the 1992 BRIT Awards

The KLF on "Britain's Favourite 90s Songs" Channel 5 UK

Channel 4 report on The KLF's reunion in 2017

Trailer for "Best Before Death", a 2018 documentary on Bill Drummond

>A trailer for the unofficial documentary on the duo, "Who Killed The KLF?" (2021)


A slipcover is included with the first 6000 copies.


"The KLF: 23 Seconds to Eternity" features all the films and promos of the subversive and anarchistic genre hopping duo in a complete form which fans have been wanting for, as well as a great introduction to their artistry for a new generation. It's unfortunate that the transfers for most of the works are in less than ideal condition and that the audio presented here is pitched down from their original versions. On a positive not, the BFI's Blu-ray and DVD feature a great selection of extras that provide interesting background information on the films while still keeping the mystery of The KLF as they should be. Still comes as recommended.

The Film: A Video: C Audio: B Extras: B+ Overall: B


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